Dagenham & Redbridge 5-4 Barnet: Hat-trick hero Walker decides goal-laden thriller in stoppage time
Myles Weston and Josh Walker receive the adulation from teammates after combining devastatingly for the stoppage time winner. (Image: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

Familiar foes across the capital, Dagenham and Barnet, resumed the extraordinarily chaotic dynamic they left off in their equally memorable meeting on Good Friday earlier this year - a 7-3 home win on that occasion - with another remarkable contest that encroached into the same territory of logic-defying absurdity. 

Defensive non-existence at both ends of the pitch yielded dramatic entertainment from the first minute to the very last, at which point Josh Walker plundered the ninth goal of the afternoon to snatch all three points, as well as completing a superb individual hat-trick.

Barnet had established then relinquished a two-goal lead inside just six first half minutes, setting the stage for a thrilling second half whereby Dagenham again quickly bounced back from a setback, then suffered a role reversal after themselves edging infront. Both threw everything at their opponents at 4-4, but it was the Daggers who found the winner.

  • Story of the Match

The international break meant enhanced exposure for the domestic lower leagues, and the flawed beauty within which was no better demonstrated than at this ground. It had already seen more goals than anywhere else in the fifth division, but this took things to new proportions altogether. 

Ironically, wayward finishing defined the opening stages. Matt Robinson hacked wildly over the bar for Dagenham, while visiting winger Harry Pritchard slipped in the process of lining up an effort of his own and ended up hitting well astray.

However, the game was soon thrust into pandemonium, from which there would be no return, when Nicke Kabamba delivered the first blow. Sean Shields just about kept the ball in play as he stood up a brilliant cross to the far post, where the aforementioned Kabamba bullied the two defenders in his vicinity to nod home.

Shellshocked, Dagenham would fall further behind almost immediately through an inversion of the same combination that had inflicted their deficit. This time, Kabamba recycled Dale Gorman's partially-cleared cross in a packed area, finding Shields, who darted away from his marker to hammer beyond Elliot Justham. 

Despite a toxic backdrop manifesting, with extreme frustration directed towards manager Daryl McMahon on his return to the dugout after a brief period of compassionate leave, the home side didn't let their heads drop. Incredibly, they would halve the deficit then promptly equalise in no time at all.

Straight up the other end from kick-off, Paul McCallum delivered a deep cross which Sam Ling headed downwards. Keeper Laurie Walker poorly spilled the effort for his namesake Josh to fire the loose ball neatly into the opposite corner. 

A scrappy lifeline, but what happened next ranked far higher on the aesthetic spectrum. Home shot-stopper Justham delivered a quick-thinking goal kick into the feet of Mauro Vilhete. Sidestepping one, then another, the Portugese wideman curled a sumptuous stunner into the very top left stanchion.

The ultimate turnaround was then almost complete when Vilhete's defence-splitting reverse pass put Paul McCallum through on his left foot, but the centre-forward dragged tantalisingly wide, the Daggers mere millimetres away from a third in rapid succession.

After peaking inside that small period, the game then fluctuated to the opposite extreme, with barely any opportunities until half time. Vilhete was forced off just before the interval after pulling up mid-stride, though his replacement Omar Mussa seized the baton commendably.

Into the second half and normality promptly resumed. For Dagenham, there was a depressing familiarity about another deep cross to the back stick being powered home by Kabamba, the formula for a significant proportion of the goals they'd conceded this season, including the very opener here.

Mauro Vilhete celebrates doubling Daggers' advantage, though his afternoon was curtailed through injury just before half time. (Image: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

Pritchard was the instigator, intelligently using the overlapping run of teammate Jerome Okimo as a decoy, which home defender Kamarl Grant fell for, to instead angle inside and deliver a tremendous cross. Barnet's number nine met it, emphatically notching his fifth this campaign.

Such was the nature of this topsy-turvy encounter that the lead was barely intact for the time it took for the away side to celebrate it. Never has the notion of being most vulnerable when you've just scored been so effectively demonstrated.

Dean Brennan would have been all the more incensed by the manner it unfolded, too. A rapid turnover from their own corner saw Walker scamper beyond De Havilland, inexplicably the only man back, before the visiting keeper appeared to snuff out the danger by coming out to touch it away from the striker.

However, it rolled perfectly for the arriving Mussa to wrap a low effort past the only covering purple shirt on the line, his first inclusion on the scoresheet since joining from Weymouth in the summer.

The imposing Belgian midfielder's contribution increased just seven minutes later with the delivery of a wicked inswinging corner that Walker was able to touch home from point blank range, benefiting from horrendous marking to do so.

Dagenham were infront for the first time though, true to the script, it wouldn't last too long as a recurrence of that very scenario at the other end saw a corner kick headed straight in by Okimo. 4-4 with twenty minutes plus injury time left, and nothing was beyond the realms of possibility now.

What followed was as dramatic a finale as will be seen anywhere across the league throughout the remainder of the season, with both sides launching frequent assaults on the other and looking likely to score with every venture, in the absence of much competent defending by way of resistance.

Barnet undoubtedly had the better openings but the clinical edge suddenly deserted them. Notably Kabamba and Okimo, who each missed free headers, as did Ben Wynter when found in acres of space from a set-piece, albeit off-balance.

Pritchard also got in behind after dispossessing Grant, whose misdemeanour elicited a furious reaction from substitute Dean Rance after the move had - on their behalf - thankfully broken down due to a disappointly-executed cross from the Barnet winger. The duo tussled on the pitch, almost coming to blows.

All of the above constructed the belief that, if anybody was going to grab a winner, it would certainly be the Bees. However, then came the heartbreaking sucker punch, just as an amicable draw seemed to be on the cards. 

Justham punted a goal kick upfield and, as Myles Weston brilliantly flicked it on, Barnet were caught napping at the worst possible moment. Walker stole a yard on Collinge, which was enough for him to exploit, rifling clinically into the far corner with his left foot.

  • Player of the Match

Josh Walker (Dag & Red) | A magnificent hat-trick of varied finishes from the pacy striker, who certainly didn't refrain celebration against his former club either. The first two were clinical poaching, then the hat-trick completer featured superb composure within the context of it being deep into stoppage time. While not officially credited with the assist, he also played a crucial role in Mussa making it 3-3, bursting away from Ryan De Havilland to go through before the rebound was then tucked away.

  • Match Details

DAGENHAM & REDBRIDGE: Elliot Justham; Mauro Vilhete ⚽ (Omar Mussa ⚽ 45'), Besart Topalloj, Manny Onariase, Kamarl Grant, Sam Ling; Mo Sagaf, Matt Robinson; Myles Weston, Paul McCallum (Dean Rance 🟨 72'), Josh Walker ⚽⚽⚽

BARNET: Laurie Walker; Jerome Okimo ⚽, Danny Collinge, Moussa Diarra, Ben Wynter; Dale Gorman, Michael Phillips (Connor Smith 61'), Ryan De Havilland; Harry Pritchard, Nicke Kabamba ⚽⚽, Sean Shields ⚽ (Rob Hall 61')

Referee: Lloyd Wood | Attendance: 1631 (251 Away)